A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests that capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius remains possible, but only through substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions within the energy sector. This update builds upon the IEA's May 2021 report, emphasizing the urgency of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 and expediting permitting and grid connections to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol stressed the need for governments to prioritize climate over geopolitics and act swiftly to maintain the 1.5°C goal. Without more aggressive action, climate efforts might depend on costly and unproven carbon removal technologies.
The growth of solar power and electric vehicle sales since 2021 aligns with the 2050 net-zero pathway, with these technologies contributing significantly to emission reductions by 2030, according to IEA.
Achieving net-zero emissions also demands accelerated improvements in energy efficiency, increased heat pump use, and a substantial reduction in methane emissions, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
By 2035, IEA recommends an 80% reduction in emissions from advanced economies compared to 2022 levels, and a 60% reduction in emissions from emerging economies.
The report comes in the wake of a record-breaking summer marked by catastrophic wildfires, storms, and floods. IEA underscores the pressing need to transform the global energy system in line with the 1.5°C goal.
The upcoming United Nations climate summit, COP 28, scheduled for November in Dubai, is seen as a vital opportunity to commit to stronger climate action in this critical decade.
IEA's report makes it clear that there is no room for new coal mines, unabated coal plants, or long-lead-time oil and gas projects in a net-zero emissions scenario. Investment in fossil fuels between 2023 and 2035 exceeds the net-zero scenario by $3.6 trillion, a significant challenge in achieving the temperature increase target.
The report also suggests that, without additional climate policies, coal, natural gas, and oil demand will peak in this decade, but more substantial efforts are still needed to meet the 1.5°C goal.
While the report acknowledges the potential role of carbon removal technologies, it warns that relying solely on these methods would be costly and uncertain. A representative from the Direct Air Capture Coalition emphasized the importance of complementing these technologies with emissions reduction efforts.
In summary, the IEA report calls for immediate and decisive action to drastically reduce emissions within the energy sector to maintain the possibility of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.